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ON THE FIFTH OF NOVEMBER
Now pious James, coming from the extreme North, possessed the Teucer-born peoples and the widespread realms of the folk of Albion, and now an inviolable pact conjoined English scepters to the Caledonian Scots, and James sat as a peacemaker and a prosperous man on his new throne, secure from hidden wiles and any foe, when the savage tyrant of Acheron, flowing with fire, the father of the Eumenides, the vagrant exile from celestial Olympus, chanced to be wandering through the world, counting his allies in crime, his loyal servants, destined to be partners in his kingdom after their sad demise. Here he stirred up great storms in mid-air, there he sowed hatred between like-minded friends, armed unconquered nations against each others’ vitals, overturned kingdoms flourishing in peace that bears the olive branch, and whoever he saw to be enamored of pure virtue, these he craved to add to his empire. The master of deceits tried to corrupt the inaccessible heart with evil, setting stealthy snares, stretching his hidden nets, that he might capture the unwary, as the Caspian tigress follows her prey through the trackless wastes under a moonless night sky and stars winking in slumber. With such things Summanus attacks people and cities, wreathed in a smoky whirlwind of blue fire. And now the fields white with their booming cliffs appeared, that land dear to the sea-god, to which his son had once lent his name, a man who did not shrink from crossing over the sea and challenging Amphitryon’s violent son to furious combat, before the cruel age which saw the storming of Troy.
But as soon as he saw that Albion was blessed with wealth and festive peace, her fields rich with the bounty of Ceres, and (which vexed him the more) her people worshipping the sacred divinity of the true God, at length he heaved sighs stinking of Tartarus’ fires and yellow sulphur, sighs such as grim and monstrous Typhoeus emits from his corrosive mouth, shut up by Jove in Sicilian Aetna. His eyes blazed, his row of adamantine teeth gnashed like the clash of arms, like the sound of spear beating against spear. And he said, “I have wandered all the world, and have found this one thing to be lamentable, this single race is rebellious towards me, scornful of my yoke, stronger than my art. But if my endeavors have any power, she will not long experience this with impunity, she will not go scot-free.” So much he spoke, and swam through the liquid air on pitch-black wings. And where he flew, unfriendly winds ran before him in a battle-line, the clouds gathered, much lightning flashed.
Now he swiftly passed the frosty Alps and gained the Ausonian land. On his left were the misty Apennines and the ancient Sabines, on the right Tuscany, notorious for its poisoners, and he saw you too, Tiber, giving furtive kisses to Thetis. Next he landed on the citadel of Mars-born Quirinus. Now the dusk was making the light uncertain, while the wearer of the triple tiara was traveling throughout the city, bearing his gods made of baked bread, borne on the shoulders of men. Kings preceded him on their knees and a lengthy file of mendicant friars, holding waxen candles, blind, born and living out their lives in Cimmerian darkness. Then they entered shrines glowing with many tapers (the evening was that consecrated to Peter), and the bawling of the choirs filled the hollow vaults, the empty spaces, just as Dionysus and his throng howl, singing at their orgies on Echionian Arachynthus, as Asopus quakes in his pellucid waters and Cithaeron echoes at a distance with its crannied cliffs.
These things finally accomplished with solemnity, Night silently quit the embrace of old man Erebus and drove her horses headlong, her whip lashing them onward: blind Typhlon, fierce Melanchaetes, sluggish Siope born of an Acherontean sire, and Phrix bristling with a shaggy mane. Meanwhile the master of kings and heir of Phelegethon entered his marriage-chamber (for this furtive adulterer spends no loveless nights without a soft mistress), but sleep had scarcely closed his eyes when the black lord of the shades, ruler of the silent, that predator on mankind, stood by him, clad in disguise. His temples gleamed with false white locks, a long beard covered his breast, an ash-colored garment swept the ground with its hem, a cowl hung from his tonsured head, and, lest anything be lacking from his artfulness, he girded his lusty loins with a hempen rope and wore open sandals on his slow-moving feet. Such is Francis supposed to have been in the vast wilderness, as he used to wander alone in the harsh haunts of wild beasts, bringing pious words of salvation to the denizens of the wood (though impious himself), taming the wolves and the Libyan lions.
The crafty serpent, concealed by such a rig, deceitfully opened his hateful mouth and said: “Are you sleeping, my son? Even now does slumber overwhelm your limbs, oh you who are unmindful of the Faith and forgetful of your flock, while a barbarian nation born beneath the Hyperborean pole, the quiver-bearing British mock your see, venerable one, and your triple tiara? Come, awake, rise up, you lazy fellow worshipped by Latin Caesar, a Father for whom the portals of arching heaven lie open. Shatter their swollen spirits, their bold disdain, let these blasphemers learn the power of your curse, the power of the holder of the apostolic key. Gain vengeance, mindful of the devastation of the Spanish fleet, their pennants sunk in the vast deep, and so many Saints’ bodies nailed to the shameful cross during the recent reign of the Thermodontean maiden. But if you prefer to wallow in your soft bed, and refuse to smite our enemy’s growing powers, he will fill the Tyrrhenian Sea with a multitude of soldiers, and plant his bright banners on the Aventine hill; he will shatter the remains of antiquity and set them aflame, he will plant his profane feet on your sacred neck, though kings used to delight in kissing your feet. But do not attempt to assail him with warfare and open contention, for that is a fruitless effort; employ deceit cleverly, it is permitted to spread any nets at all against heretics. And now their great King is summoning leading men from far-flung regions to a council, and also Peers blessed in their lineage, and aged fathers venerable for their gowns and hoary heads. You will be able to scatter them in the air, dismembered, and reduce them to ashes by throwing gunpowder’s fire beneath the building in which they are convened. Further, you must warn whomever of the faithful England still possess of your intention and of the deed. Will none of your countrymen dare carry out the mandates of the supreme Pope? When they are stricken by sudden terror and amazed at their misfortune, either the cruel Frenchman or the fierce Spaniard will invade. Thus at length the Marian centuries will return there, and you will gain mastery of the warlike English. Have no fear, know that the gods and goddesses are well disposed, and all the divinities you adore on holy days.” Thus the Treacherous One spoke and, putting off his borrowed attire, fled to unspeakable Lethe, his gloomy realm. Now Tithonia, throwing open the gates of the dawn, clothed the golden land with her returning light and, still mourning her swarthy son’s sad fate, she shed her ambrosial drops on the mountain tops, when the doorkeeper of night’s starry court banished sleep, rolling away nocturnal visions and welcome dreams.
There is a place surrounded by night’s eternal mist, once the proud foundations of structures now ruined, now the caverns of brutal Murder and two-tongued Betrayal, whelped at the same time by wild Discord. Here amidst rubble and half-broken stones lie men’s unburied bones and bodies run through with steel. Here black Guile always sits with her eyes askew, and Quarrels, and Libel, armed with fangs in her jaws, and Madness, here can be seen a thousand manners of death, and Fear; bloodless Horror always circles the place, ghosts constantly howl in the mute silence, and the guilty earth pools with blood. Murder and Betrayal themselves lurk in terror in the bowels of the cave, though nobody pursues them through the cavern, the shadowy cave, craggy, dark with wild shadows. They flee in guilt, rolling back their eyes. The Babylonian bishop summoned these weapons, loyal to Rome for long centuries, and spoke thus: “A nation hateful to me inhabits the waters pouring around the western ends of the earth, prudent Nature refused to join them to our world, being unworthy. I command you to hasten there on swift feet, and let them be blown into thin air by Hellish powder, both the King and his Lords, and also his wicked offspring; and as many men as have been burning with zeal for the true Faith you must make partners in your plan and the agents of our work.” He made an end, and the unbending twins obeyed.
Meanwhile He who bends the heavens in their long curve looked down, the Lord Who hurls lightning from His citadel in the skies, laughed at the vain endeavors of this perverse gang, and chose to defend in Person the cause of His people.
They say there is a place where fertile Europe parts from Asia and looks at the waters of Lake Mareotis. Here is built the lofty tower of Rumor, daughter of a Titaness, brazen, broad, resonant, nearer to the gleaming stars than Athos or Pelion piled atop Ossa. A thousand doors and portals lie open, and a like number of windows, and through its thin walls the rooms within can be seen. Here a rabble congregation emits sundry whispers, as do swarms of flies with their buzzings as they circle a milk-pail, or fly though the sheep pen made of woven wicker, when the Dogstar seeks the heights of heaven, its summer high-point. Rumor herself sits atop her citadel, her mother’s avenger; her head is held aloft, encircled by a thousand ears by which she receives the smallest sound, the lightest murmur of an undertaking, from the farthest ends of the widespread world. Not even you rolled so many eyes in your pitiless face, son of Arestor, wrongful guardian of the Isis-cow, eyes that never lowered in quiet slumber, eyes gazing wide over the outspread earth. With these Rumor is often wont to examine places that are lacking in light, even places impervious to the radiant sun. Then, babbling with her thousand tongues, she wantonly pours forth the things she has heard and seen to anyone at all, now lyingly diminishing the truth, now exaggerating it with invented tales. But you deserve my song’s praise, Rumor, for the good you did (nothing ever more truthful). You deserve to be sung of by me, nor shall I be ashamed to have mentioned you in such a lengthy song, and we English, wandering goddess, saved by your offices, repay you in equal measure. For God Who governs the eternal fires in their movement first sent forth a lightning bolt, and as the earth trembled then said: “Are you silent, Rumor? Or does that Papist crew escape your notice, conspiring against Me and My British? Do you not know of the novel murder being planned against scepter-wielding James?” He said no more, she immediately understood the Thunderer’s injunctions and (though she had been swift enough before) she put on whirring wings and clothed her slender body with particolored feathers. In her right hand she bore a ringing trumpet of Temesaean brass. Without delay she traversed the air that yielded to her pinions; it was a trifle to outrun the scudding clouds — now she left the winds and the horses of the sun behind her and at first, in her usual way, spread enigmatic words and uncertain whispers through the cities of England. Soon she denounced the schemes and published the hateful work of treason, and also deeds horrible to describe, adding the names of the architects of the crime, nor in her prattle did she remain silent about places arranged for their secret treacheries. People were astounded by her revelations, both young men and girls shivered, as did feeble old men, awareness of so great a collapse quickly penetrated to every age. But in the meantime our heavenly Father took pity on the people from on high, and checked the Papists’ cruel attempts. But pious incense and grateful honors are paid to God, our happy streets are all smoking with joyous bonfires, the youthful throng goes a-dancing: in the whole year no day is celebrated more than the Fifth of November.